China is coming to the Caribbean

Yesterday the BBC reported that the Chinese and Singapore governments have become key investors in Barclays, helping the UK firm to raise its offer for the Dutch bank ABN Amro. The China Development Bank (CDB) and Temasek, the investment arm of the Singaporean government, have invested £2.4bn (3.6bn euros) in Barclays. So what’s the link with the Caribbean? We’ll tell you.

Barclays Bank is established all over the Caribbean, now trading under the name ‘First Caribbean’ together with a Canadian partner. It has other interests in the Caribbean as well. If China and Singapore get involved in Barclays, they are (wham!) in the middle of the Caribbean. Then, if Barclays succeeds in buying ABN Amro, its role as one of the major international banks is secured.

No big deal. In fact, we welcome it. It only goes to show how globalization works. It cannot and should not be stopped. What we – Caribbean governments – should do is to make sure we’re not left out. This means that our island-centered nationalistic rhetoric must change. We must expand CARICOM, but should do so in an even larger context, namely the European Union (except for Puerto Rico, but including Cuba, if we use our brains).

The tiny island of Bonaire has understood this and is actually forging ahead along this road. It has opted to become an integral part of Holland and thereby of the EU. This will ensure its development and pave the way for the maximum possible aspiration for the Caribbean in a globalized world, namely to gain recognition as an autonomous region. What we have to do in the Caribbean is make sure we strengthen freedom, diversity and democracy. Again, the EU can help us there. Via the EU Caribbean integration will accelerate.